Traditional B2B sales methods have changed. It’s not just about closing a sale anymore—it’s about having relevant conversations with and providing value to potential customers. The ultimate goal is to become a trusted partner over a short-term vendor.
The array of information you can gather via social listening provides the ideal insight for driving these new, relevant conversations (which are likely to result in more sales and better business results). We call it social selling, and over the last six months we have used it to help some of our B2B clients with revenue wins of over $7 million.
The B2B Social Selling Process
As I discussed in my previous post, social listening insights can inform a range of actions, from how you engage directly with an individual customer to shifting your overall brand strategy. More than just monitoring digital noise, successful listening requires analysis and reflection. Ultimately, you can translate those insights into successful lead generation with the following process.
1. Achieve a clear understanding of your audience
Like any good marketing effort, you must start a clear and detailed understanding of your target audience. In order to listen for the right things in the social sphere and then respond appropriately with relevant content, you must know your prospects deeply—beyond demographics, firmographics, install base, etc. You need enough insight about your audience to pinpoint specific keywords and phrases that represent multiple aspects their buyer's journey (e.g. pain points, business objectives, growth imperatives, strategic endeavors, IT requirements). The most successful social listening engines will also listen for a comprehensive set of buying trends and triggers that your audience uses—such as “I’m looking for”, “budget” and even the dollar sign.
2. Listen with an AI-driven social engine
Social selling means setting up your technology to find relevant conversations, based on your understanding of your audience and their buyer's journey. The ideal technology approach combines real-time social monitoring through a dedicated platform with predictive analytics and ‘cognitive computing' to quickly identify conversational topics across social channels. Using artificial intelligence, the engine learns patterns and continues to refine the keywords and phrases it listens to as leads are validated later in the process.
3. Analyze social data to identify the leads
Social selling is not just a technological process—you'll also need a team of social analysts to work with the technology and filter through the information or 'alerts' it provides. Social analysts are needed to combine the social listening results with predictive models to find the most relevant conversations that can are mostly likely to turn into sales leads.
To streamline this process, we've developed analytics tools that incorporate predefined BANT (budget, authority, need and timeline) criteria to filter through the social alerts, keeping only the relevant conversations and labeling them as hot, warm, or cold:
- Hot: A high likelihood of converting the contact into a lead when engaged by a member of the sales team
- Warm: With additional nurturing, there’s good probability the contact will respond to a call to action
- Cold: Intelligence that can be used to inform the digital tactics of sales and marketing
4. Progress the hot and warm conversations with relevant content
Once you have identified and prioritized relevant conversations, it's time to engage them in conversation. Funnel the prioritized alerts from step three to a sales rep or business development director. This helps sellers identify and react earlier to the most relevant conversations in the social sphere. You'll also want to consider enhancing the social alerts with industry trends or other useful supplemental information so that the sellers are prepared to respond contextually with content relevant to the prospect's needs.
The warm alerts should also receive some lead nurture to make sure no one falls through the cracks. Put them into dedicated marketing nurture streams—but make sure to integrate social notices back into the traditional outreach the company is running. The idea is to continually listen to your prospects' reactions. Their social conversations may evolve as you nurture them, and you'll want to make sure you are aware of this evolution.
5. Close the sale and report on progress
When the social platforms are integrated correctly with your CRM, reporting on the success of your social selling efforts is simple. Keep track of the progression of your socially-identified leads through the sales funnel to report on your return on investment.
Social Selling in Practice
One of our largest B2B technology clients developed a social selling program specifically to help its sellers identify and react earlier to buyer signals from the brand's top 30 accounts across social media. By incorporating social listening and by participating in social conversations with highly relevant and timely content, the sales team is able to engage much earlier in the buyer's journey. They are also able to focus on their most valuable opportunities, maximize their efficiency, increase the velocity of their opportunities through the sales cycle, and significantly increases their win ratios.
The social selling program resulted in:
- 164% increase in relevant social posts identified
- 6,800 contact opportunities identified
- 289% increase increase in new buyers
- 185% increase in leads within a financial year
- 97% increase in win revenue
Check out the full case study: Technology Giant Increases New Buyers by 289% with Social Intelligence
In the simplest terms, successful social selling programs help you to identify and engage prospects earlier in the buyer's journey with personalized, relevant conversations. This approach helps your brand to become the trusted advisor instead of the hard-selling vendor and deepens your relationships with your prospects and customers.
This is the level of personalized interaction your customers demand—and it's the level of personalized interaction that will give your brand the edge over your competition. It's time to get social!
About the Author
As Marketing Services Manager, Ioana has more than 12 years experience in making sense of customer data and trying to figure out the context in which businesses can thrive. Amongst other things, Ioana specializes in transforming social conversation into actionable insights for large B2B tech clients, providing value through new and innovative ideas of doing business.More Content by Ioana Popescu